Top 6 Things to Do in Prenatal Yoga

Last week, we talked about the things to avoid in yoga to keep pregnant women safe. That's always the first concern, of course. But once you are safe, there are loads of things you can do to ease the experience of carrying a pregnancy (which requires stability) and giving birth (which requires the pelvis to open up in a truly spectacular way).

Here are the top six things to emphasise in prenatal yoga, or in a general class that has pregnant students in it:

1. Focus on opening the hip and groin area by doing hip ­opening postures like Butterfly Pose, Wide ­Angle Seated Forward Bend and Deep Squat

2. Strengthen the muscles around the pelvis by doing stabilising postures like Chair Pose, Semi squats and gentle Variations of Bridge Pose

3. Get the thighs ready for the hard work during labour by doing lots strengthening standing postures like Warrior Poses and gentle flowing movements like Salutations to the Sun (modified)

4. Focus on opening chest and upper back area and relaxing the other main areas or the upper body (shoulder, head and neck) to counterbalance the weight of the baby pulling the upper body forward and to open the 'heart space' in order soften any emotional tensions.

5. Practice Preparational Birthing Practices and pelvic floor awareness to prepare and empower the pregnant woman for labour by doing lots of challenging postures with calming breathing and Visualisation practices.

6. Practice useful Breathing Techniques that will help the mother ­to­ be to calm down the nervous system and to soften the belly and pelvis area during pregnancy and labour.

Top 6 Things to Avoid in Prenatal Yoga

Top 6 Things to Avoid in Prenatal Yoga

It's pretty simple really: you want to alleviate the aches and pains of pregnancy but avoid squishing your baby or straining your abdominal wall any more than it already is, which may exacerbate any tendency you may have towards diastasis recti (the splitting of your rectus abdominus muscles. Not pleasant).

Prenatal Yoga

This is a post from Janene.


I had a conversation with my fellow teachers recently about the special teaching adaptions required for pregnant students. During my own pregnancy I taught yoga up until a week before the due date, but I knew intimately what I could and couldn’t do safely (both formal learning and of course life experience) and what my body could handle. I was also very conscious about what worked and didn’t with my evolving shape.

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Here are my top ten points to keep in mind for any woman who is pregnant or knows someone who is:

  1. In yoga and in daily life, remember everything is just a guide. You might read books, hear stories, or have people telling you about their experience. These are helpful, but what is right for others may or may not be right for you. For example, that whole 140 beats per minutes (bpm) exercise limit, can only be a guide, because if you normally had a higher heart rate, then even walking could tip you over 140bpm. A better guide: can you can comfortably hold a conversation while exercising? Listen, but make your own decisions.
  2. Only lie on your belly as long as it feels ok – depending on how fast you show will guide you, but it’s still a personal choice. Once your belly is too large, use hand and knees as your modification to practice.
  3. As you get bigger, lie on your left side for relaxation – why, well this is because the body is pumping more blood around and your body is under strain just due to this. As you grow larger it becomes harder for the body to do this so when you lie on your left side you are relieving pressure on the inferior vena cava which runs along your right side, thus helping return blood to the heart. And it’s also really nice.
  4. Lying on your back - yes or no? – now I found that working in a pose on my back for a short time was ok, but if it was an extended practice your options are –i) use a cushion under your buttocks to lift the hips higher than your heart ii) work in an alternate position or different pose iii) lie on your side. If you feel a tingle then you’ve done enough. The official stance is don’t do this after Trimester 1 but see point 1.
  5. Don’t squat high after 34 weeks – this is because you want to start to relax the muscles around the hips and pelvis in preparation for birth
  6. Don’t work your core after first trimester – this one is the most contentious. Yes you do need to relax your belly muscles to help the muscles stretch to accommodate the increasing belly, BUT, there is a difference between actively working and strengthening the muscles for that 6 pack and keeping the muscles engaged to help support your baby. I always encourage mums to be to keep gentle engagement through the abs to support the baby’s weight, and to help keep posture. The back can get very overworked if the tummy muscles are not active, and this can lead to complications later. Point 1 again.
  7. Work your pelvic floor until around 34 weeks – your pelvic floor helps keep the baby supported in a little hammock, so strengthen this area to help keep that load supported. Only stop when you have to. This was my life saver. (Nadine's note: read this too. Super important for HOW to work your pelvic floor)
  8. Now the one I wish I had known – don’t stretch to that point where you go ‘cool look at what I can do’. Why? This stretch is only possible because you have hormones racing around your body relaxing your muscles. Yes they are stretching, but it’s not in your normal range of movement and this means you are really making the area stretched unstable and unsafe. This can lead to evil problems eg back pain, pelvic instability etc. Nasty.
  9. Breath deeply, keep relaxing and go with the flow - the body is under great stress so remember, be kind. No harm every came from resting did it. And, if you feel short of breath then it’s likely your blood volume.
  10. Your pregnancy is unique to you, right here, right now. Just because a woman is pregnant doesn't mean that they will have issues, BUT pregnancy will exploit known and unknown weaknesses in your body, known or not.   

Neen headshot

About the author: Janene Watt crams a lot into her days. She's a working mumma who teaches yoga on the side.